The internet has become so common place in our lives that it is unlikely to find a business that does not have an internet presence. If you’re reading this article, you probably already understand how important a website is as part of your online presence. I’m going to briefly mention a few benefits of having a good website, which are convenience, cost-effectiveness and credibility.
There are plenty of resources out there that give you technical information about choosing platforms, domains and hosting. This article is going to talk about none of that. Let’s jump right into creating one, whether you’re building a new website or giving an old one an overhaul.
A good website isn’t one that just looks good. It provides a great user experience and makes it easy to gain new customers. So here are the steps you need to follow to ensure that your get the most out of your web investment.
Its hard to get somewhere if you don’t really know where you’re going. Thats why setting S.M.A.R.T objectives is key. It defines the site’s purpose, what the site needs to do and when it needs to be done.
S.M.A.R.T stands for
S – Specific – Be specific with what the site needs to do when it’s ready.
Example: “get 10 online sign-ups per day”
M – Measurable – This means that it can be tracked and accounted for.
Example: “online sign ups can be tracked through your book keeping software”
A – Aligned with Corporate Goals – This means that there are quantifiable ways in which the website aligns with the goals you have for the business.
R- Reasonable – Goals should be reasonable and based on some kind of research.
Example: You can easily get data from your competition, research companies and plenty of other sources. Its is always important to note the time it took to achieve such results so that you can estimate a realistic deadline.
T – Time Bound – This means that you have a due date and deadline for completion.
A bad objective reads :
Build a website with plenty of information and pictures.
A good S.M.A.R.T objective reads:
Build a website that will result in 10 online signups/day by December 2016
A customer persona is a representation of your current (and potential) customers. Customer Personas help you tailor your website’s content and messaging to the needs, concerns and behaviors of the very people who will be buying your products and services.
A good place to start is to go through your existing customer base and uncover trends about how they interact with your brand. It is also wise to talk with the people who interact with your customers on a regular basis such as sales people and staff. If possible, talk to your customers, ask them about their needs, concerns and behaviors.
You’ll start to notice that you will be able to make generalizations about your customers and start to build your customer persona.
A good customer persona reads like a description of an individual.
Example: Ace Coffee’s customer persona is, Anna. She is 29 years old and works downtown at a financial services company. She is married with two children and commutes to work from the suburbs every day. She likes to stop at the coffee shop on her way to work and sometimes spends a few minutes talking to other customers in line. She likes grabbing a bite to eat when getting her coffee and takes it to go. Anna, likes that the coffee shop is on her way to work but doesn’t like that the lines are long which makes her late to work sometimes.
Note how the customer persona has plenty of information about, the age, gender, likes and dislikes about a certain segment of Ace Coffee’s customers, thereby allowing Ace Coffee to cater their website’s look, feel, messaging and even their product offering to their customer persona. Its is not uncommon for a business to have two or three personas of their most dominant customer base.
If you haven’t already, download our “Website Building Workbook” for free to help you build a customer persona.
This is my favorite part, building the wish-list. This is where you gather your team and put all the could haves and should haves on a piece of paper. It could be as crazy or conservative as you please. So, go on write away.
Our free “Website Building Workbook“ has a wish-list template that you can use.
Now, at this stage, you should have enough information to get started on the website. Any good web design or digital marketing agency will be able to give you a proposal based on the information you’ve provided. If you’re choosing to DIY, pay special attention to Step 5.
Paraphrasing the words of Benjamin Franklin, ‘failing to plan, is planning to fail’ (or spend a lot more money than needed). This couldn’t be more true in the world of web design. Most web design or digital marketing agencies will at this point begin the discovery phase, where every little detail will be planned out based on your goals, customer personas and wish list. This includes your wireframes and sketches, your sitemap, your process flows, site actions and behaviors. A good plan / discovery phase will keep development costs (which can cost a pretty penny) on budget and on time. If you’re going the DIY route, make sure that you have every thing you need before starting development.
Good looks matter. Period. I’m not just talking about aesthetics here. I’m talking about overall usability. Its so important in fact, that it has an effect on your search engine rankings. Google’s new algorithm (Panda) uses machine learning to gauge if a site will be easy to use and therefore decide whether to rank it higher or lower.
If you feel you couldn’t care less about what google thinks of your site, brace yourself. A study conducted by Stanford University showed that nearly one in two people assessed the credibility of a site based on design, typography and consistency alone.
Your web design or digital marketing agency will begin development soon after closing out the planning/discovery phase. Development should go without a hitch on a well executed plan.
The majority of web traffic is driven by search engines such as Bing, Google or Yahoo. Search engines put your products or services in front of the people who are looking for it. If your site cannot be listed on search engines, you’re missing out on incredible opportunities to turn these targeted audiences into customers. Most good Web Design or Digital Marketing Agencies will optimize your site so that search engine bots can crawl your site.
As smart as these search engines are, they do need extra push to show your site to relevant audiences. A well executed SEO campaign can list you near the top or relevant search results but be warned, a misguided or poorly executed SEO effort can also bury you in the depths of the internet.
An SEO Company or a Digital Marketing Agency will be able to develop a good SEO strategy that will feature a combination of Ad Words, Social Media and other Inbound Marketing components. Be picky with who you go with and stay away from those spammy emails that claim to get your website to the top of search engines for the price of a pop-tart! SEO doesn’t work like that. It takes time and consideration.
Going back to your S.M.A.R.T objectives, measuring is crucial to know how your investment has been performing and what sort of Return on Investment (ROI) you’re getting. There are many tools out there that let you measure key metrics such as traffic, traffic sources, bounce rates and conversion rates. Google Analytics is the most widely used tool and offers powerful ways to keep track of such metrics. Keep in mind that it takes time for your web efforts to bear fruit but keep an eye out for things that aren’t working as effectively. If something isn’t working like it should, it’s time to hit Step 9.
No website is built perfect the first time around, however, constant measurement and tweaking will help you get there. Over time, you will learn what works and what doesn’t. Remember, your website is not something you build and forget, it is a marketing tool. If you build and maintain it well, your website has the potential to keep paying you back several times over.
Happy website building!